The issue of raw milk sales – is again a hot one in Wisconsin. People on both sides are crowding into a courtroom, to witness the trial of a dairy farmer from Sauk County.
Vernon Hershberger is accused of distributing raw, unpasteurized milk, without a producer’s license. If convicted, he faces up to a year in jail and thousands of dollars in fines. State law prohibits dairy farmers from selling raw milk to the public.
The Wisconsin Cheese Makers Association supports the retail ban. John Umhoefer is executive director. He says there have been many cases of people getting sick from drinking unpasteurized milk.
“We’re very concerned about illness outbreaks that we see weekly all over the country and are documented in the press. We’re concerned this sort of media piling up could cause consumers to take a second look at dairy and we don’t want people to turn away from dairy and toward soy based products,” Umhoefer says.
Umhoefer says his organization has been sending letters to lawmakers, urging them to retain the state ban. Several Republican leaders have talked about reconsidering it.
The Wisconsin Farmers Union says it has no problem with raw milk sales, provided the product is tested and labeled. Spokeswoman Kara Slaughter says farmers should have the opportunity to earn extra income.
“What we’ve found in states that have legalized raw milk sales, there has not been an increase in public health outbreaks and it certainly hasn’t had a negative impact on pasteurized milk sales,” Slaughter says.
Defenders of raw milk insist the product is better for some people, and they should have the option of purchasing it.